New York couple Dan and Chip celebrate 1 year of marriage, 20 years of love

Editors' Note: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 marks the first anniversary of legal marriages between same-sex couples in New York. To celebrate, Freedom to Marry is sharing the stories of same-sex couples who tied the knot this year, celebrating their love and commitment with beautiful ceremonies and gatherings of their friends, family members, and other loved ones. Today, we're sharing the story of Daniel Watts and Chip Bailey, who married on July 27, 2011. Read all of our stories about the first year of the freedom to marry in New York. 

In just a few weeks, when Dan and Chip set sail on a cruise in celebration of their twentieth anniversary together, the couple will have just marked another very significant anniversary, too.

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of Dan and Chip getting their marriage license in New York; it's a day as equally important to them as the day they first met. Being able to have their relationship legally acknowledged felt like an essential step. Dan explained, "It means having the state recognize what has already been recognized and embraced by our families, our friends, our neighbors, our employers, doctors, dentists, grocers, bankers, insurers, creditors, travel agent, cats - and almost everyone else in our world."

Dan and Chip met in Raleigh, North Carolina, and they clicked instantly. "We knew from the moment we found each other we were meant to be together," Dan said. "Let's just say the pot had found its lid."

But life in North Carolina was difficult for them, as they each faced prejudice in their employment situations based on their sexual orientation. Although they loved North Carolina, they felt that leaving the state would enable them to live a freer and happier life together.

To mark their first ten years together, Dan and Chip celebrated their partnership with a Vermont civil union, which included what they describe as "a big, gay wedding with all the trimmings."

But their nineteenth anniversary was even more special. On July 24, 2011, Dan and Chip got their marriage license in New York and solemnized their marriage a few days later - on July 27 - in a small intimate ceremony, exactly nine years after their civil union. "It was such a unique moment," Dan said. "During the ceremony, we reminisced together about the last 19 years."

Dan and Chip thought the legal recognition of their partnership would somehow feel functional more than anything else, but it turned out to be much more than that. "It was such a special moment for us," the couple explained. "We felt such an outpouring of love and support from our family and friends. To be legally married suddenly felt like we had completed something. We've had our share of good fortune, great family, great neighbors and a great life together, but our marriage somehow completed that circle."

Dan and Chip have never doubted their bond, but being legally married has alleviated some of the day-to-day pressures that made their lives feel complicated. "This year we filed a joint New York tax return," Dan said. "It just felt so good to file as a married couple." And just this week, Dan and Chip closed on a new mortgage for their property. "It was so much easier as a married couple and so special when we were finally able to sign on the dotted line under the word spouse!," they said.

The couple is all too aware that couples in other states are not as fortunate as they are. "I don't know if I could move to another state where our marriage would not be recognized," Chip said, saying, "It would feel like a step back."

"The freedom to marry across the country would mean we could live anywhere we wanted," Dan said. "If our marriage was recognized at a Federal level, we would be protected wherever we lived. Without that, everything that we now take for granted could be taken away from us; we'd have none of the rights we have now."

When Dan and Chip set sail on their anniversary cruise, they say they will be "married all the way," as all the territories it will journey through recognize their union. Their 20-year celebration is a very special one and one they cherish deeply.

"We love each other and would do anything for one another - relationships and marriages are hard, but ours is worth every single moment of the hard work. Just knowing we have each other and that we will always be there for one another is the greatest feeling in the world."